Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

As March ends.

In Garden, sustainable living on March 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm

The weather has been fab here this week. Lovely and sunny with a high of 24 c on Tuesday. Very unusual for an Irish March. Today has been duller and 14 c. That’s why the Irish weather is called crazy! It is just unpredictable! Work continues on edging the beds with stone from the old building in the back field.  Coming on very nicely.

Dicentra spectablis is in flower in the bed nearest the house. This cottage garden favourite has collected many common names along the way. Dutchman’s Breeches, Venus’s Car, Bleeding Heart, Lyre Flower and Lady in the Bath.

Lady in the Bath is my fave name for it. She is a rather uncomfartable upside down lady in her bath though!

Dicentra likes a sheltered spot and does well in a woodland setting. The only requirement is a mulch each year after flowering. Well drained soil is also needed for this lovely plant to be happy.

Propogation is by seed or division of clumps in Spring or Autumn. The roots are very brittle.

There is also a white flowered variety and a golden leaf one which I’ve only seen in books. The only caution with Dicentra is that some people’s skin can be irritated by contact with it. I never touch it…just admire fondly from my kitchen window where it resides in the shade of the Birch tree.

Lamium or Dead Nettle is also in flower at the moment…somewhat earlier than usual I think. This also grows in the shade of the Birch tree where it is spreading nicely…covering an area where not much else would grow. There are about 50 different Lamiums…very useful plants for shaded areas.

The Spring bulbs are lasting well this year…the weather being a bit kinder than other years.

Loosestrife or Lysmachia to give it it’s proper name is emerging very boldly. The colours are very striking now…later they lose the mad pink. This is the variageted variety and like the more common one it spreads like crazy so be careful where you plant it. Again it is a plant that does well in shade. It also likes damp soil. Clumps can be divided every 3 or so years if you want more of it. Some people consider it a bit of a weed but I really like it. Ah well…they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Gifts from here and there…

In Garden, green living on March 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Gifts come in many ways.  From friends, family, husband or wife or even people you “know” through their blogs. One such gift was the Very Inspiring Blogger Award given recently by Kevin over at . Thanks Kevin, I do appreciate your kind words and the award. Kevin’s blog is often about gardening but not exclusively. Always entertaining though! To accept the award I must nominate other blogs to also receive the award. I always feel weird about doing this as each blog is that person’s effort…I do not wish to name individual blogs on this occasion. If I follow your blog that means I like it… so to every blog I follow do take the award and pass it on. Maybe someone who has a blog needs a lift or a bit of appreciation…nominate them and make their day.

Another condition is to reveal 7 random facts about oneself.

1. I love wool but it irritates my skin so I can’t wear it.

2. I have a strong sense of justice.

3. I don’t like people who lie…it is an insult to anyone’s intelligence.

4. My most recent discovery about myself is that I have ADD (attention deficit disorder).

5. I hated school.

6. I believe in Angels.

7. One of my fave meals is basmati rice topped with a good helping of mung bean dhal. Delicious!

Another unexpected gift came my way yesterday…this lovely little Japenese hoe. Isn’t it lovely?  I spent a few hours helping a friend in the garden and admired this lovely tool. Her reply was “I’m left handed so I can’t use it. Would you like it?” Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth I accepted the gift gratefully.

When visiting another friend last week I was offered a bunch of rooted Willow cuttings. I’m sure I can find homes for them in the hedgerows. Might even make a fedge with them. They will take off instantly at this time of year… decisions…decisions!

I love their bright yellow colour. It only comes on new growth though so they would have to be cut back each year to get this. A fedge is looking more likely!

The garden has started showering us with gifts too, not that it ever stopped! Rhubarb has shot up and is ready for picking. Crumble on the menu soon!

Rhubarb is a great crop in any garden. It requires very little attention apart from a mulch of manure each Winter. It can be used for jams, chutneys, crumbles and even cakes. Even if you don’t like it as a food the leaves contain oxalic acid and make a great natural pest repellant.

Finally a gift from nature…this beautiful Arum Lily…Arum maculatum…spotted in the woodland whilst walking on Sunday. Isn’t it fab!! There are many common names for this plant, cuckoopint, lords and ladies, willy lily and parsons lillycock to name but a few. In the Autumn it has poisonous red/orangey berries.

Even the weather has been generous this week. The weather has been beautiful! Sunny and dry all week. Life is good! I am thankful.

By Lough Meelagh’s shore.

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on March 27, 2012 at 12:13 am

The weather is beautiful here at the moment, 18-20c for the last few days. Sunday saw us once again in woodland. This time it was Knockranny Wood on the shores of  Lough Meelagh.

On this occasion the Poetree Walk was led by John Willmott from Ballinifad, Co. Sligo. John shared many of his poems with us over the course of the afternoon. John is a great character with a head full of stories, folklore and legends. He has a captivating way of telling a story which entrances the listener. John has made a Garden of Labyrinth’s at his home and visitors are welcome there. Check it out on .

So many beautiful trees in this forest…this Beech infected with bracket fungus has started it’s slow decline.

Eventually we reached the shore line where John regailed us with stories of Orchard Island which can be seen in the distance. It is said to have once been home to St. Lasair and her father Ronan Mc Ninneadha, St. Ronan. It was a place of abundance with an apple orchard, bees and the Rose of Sweetness. Ireland’s Avalon as John called it.

The shoreline here is made up of these unusual rocks…I call them Moon rocks. So many wild plants growing here…Meadowsweet, Wild Mint and Primroses are in abundance.

Leaving the shoreline we walked across fields to St. Lasair’s Holy Well…

it is here that people still come to pray and drink the sweet, cool water that will cure their ailments. 


Further still we walked onto the so called Fairy House. This sits in what was once the grounds of Kilronan Castle. If you look closely you can see that the stones are the same as the Moon rocks from the shores of the nearby lough.

As we made our weary way back to the carpark the sun was setting and the evening chill was coming in. A beautiful end to a lovely afternoon.

On a Saturday in March @ Prospect Cottage.

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Over breakfast we were looking through the Argos catalogue. Freddie found it a bit boring so he had a little snooze.

After brekkie Andy was checking the exhaust on the car as it  had come loose. Freddie exploited the situation to have a nice comfortable seat. I took the pic through the sitting-room window.

The afternoon saw Andy cutting rushes in the back field. We usually strim them but on this occasion we borrowed this machine from our neighbours, it is fairly old but a very efficient machine. It has all sorts of attachments for ploughing, making drills etc. Our main interest was cutting the rushes using the finger bar mower type attachment. It is quicker than the strimmer and cuts clloser to the ground. When we bought this place almost 10 years ago the rushes had’nt been cut for years and were about 5 ft tall. We cut them each year and they are slowly getting weaker.

My main job for the day was pricking out seedlings. These are Rosssa de Trento lettuce, a loose leaf Italian variety.

More lettuces, a Bulgarian cos type and Cabbages were also pricked out. It’s amazing how long this job takes but it very satisfing. Non gardeners would’nt understand but all the gardeners out there I’m sure will.

Flat Leaf Parsley will have to wait until tomorrow…

and all the while we are watched over by The Wise One.

The stone moving continues @ Prospect Cottage.

In green living, sustainable living on March 22, 2012 at 5:49 pm


The moving of big stones from the back field down to the garden continued today. We have decided to leave the remains of the little house and use the stones which are spread around the area. These must have been from an old wall. Same type of squared off cut stones. They were quite clever in the situating of the house. Down in a hollow sheltered from the prevailing winds. Nowadays the new houses are built without any regard to orientation.


Mr. Muscles aka Andy was home today, he can lift heavier stones than I. I was bringing 2 or 3 stones to the barrowload…


he could bring 5! Showoff!!


Taking a little break to enjoy the Spring sunshine…the dogs enjoy a bit of attention. Oops! A bit of intimate sniffing going on there…


then a bit of playing.


Down in the garden the stone edging looks good. All the boards will have to be gradually replaced as they have been in place for 8 years and are starting to rot. Can you see the hole in the centre of the biggest stone? This stone would have held a metal gatepost in days gone by.



More stones wait to be given a new lease of life in their new garden home. Repurposing is I think the new word for recycling. Reuse, recycle, upcyle, repurpose. Whatever you want to call it is fine with me.

Musings from a smallholding at Spring Equinox.

In Garden, sustainable living on March 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm

As the temperatures rise I like to have a fruit breakfast. I find it hard to eat cold food in the Winter but once Spring comes I change from my tea and toast or porridge to smoothies. May not have one every day but certainly a couple a week.

This morning I had a Banana and Avacado smoothie made with soya milk and a little honey for a bit of extra sweet. I did’nt use all those Bananas…just two. To make:  just put the peeled fruit in the blender. cover with soya milk and whizz. A couple of seconds and it’s done.

Forgot to say I also add Spirulina, hence the green colour. Spiriluna is a microscopic fresh water plant packed with goodness. It contains antioxidants, trace elements and all the essential amino acids. It is available in powdered form from good health food stores. I use half a teaspoon in a pint of smoothie.  That gives me energy for about 6 hours.

After my power breakfast I was ready for some hard work. This old residence in our back field has some lovely cut stone. All the old cottages would have been built from stone. This was inhabitated up to 60 years ago. Hard to believe isn’t it! These lovely stones are ideal for making raised beds. I can carry about 3 in the wheelbarrow…2 if they’re very big. Andy can carry more but he was away today. Thought I’d show off while he was out!


After some lighter garden work, pricking out seedlings and training Tayberries my thoughts once again turned to food. What to have for dinner? We still have a few Squashes left so I decided to use one of them to make a soup. These have been stored in the spare room over winter and are still perfectly sound. Last Summer was’nt  great for Pumpkins as it was cold and wet. Only the indoor ones produced anything. That fine Butternut in front was the only one from 5 plants. Don’t know what the grey skinned one is called, I saved seed from a Pumpkin we had in Bulgaria. Over there they grow to 3 times that size.


As you can see they are still perfectly sound. The skin does become very hard so a good sharp knife is needed to peel. Together with Carrots and Lentils this will make a delicious soup for our evening meal.

Hope you had a good Spring Equinox day!



As Spring Equinox approaches.

In nature, sustainable living on March 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

As Spring Equinox approaches we are spending lots of time in the garden. It’s that time of year when the green returns and we are enthused by spending time revelling in it. In the polytunnel beds have been dug and manured ready for the plants that are growing in the seed trays. The Peach tree is in full flower. This will need to be hand pollinated as there are few insects about this early. Some seeds are sown direct in the beds: Oriental Salad Mix, Rocket, Spring Onions and Spinach.

All the manure used in the garden is from our own animals. There’s also the compost made from vegetable waste from the garden,  vegetable peelings and teabags from the house. It is full of worms, beautifully dark and crumbly.

Spring Equinox is a day earlier than usual this year because of the leap year. The Equinox ocurs about 6 hours later each year, with a jump of a day backwards on leap years, hence 20th March this year. The Sun will be rising earlier each day now, 6.o5 tomorrow, and nightfall will be coming later and later.

Strawberries are already flowering in the polytunnel, very early this year. This is an alpine variety, small but very sweet fruits.

At the Vernal Equinox day and night are of almost equal length. The Sun rises exactly in the east, travels through the sky for 12 hours, then sets exactly in the west. I look forward to the budding trees revealing their beautiful new leaves, the wind becoming less harsh, plants sprouting and everything being seized by the vibrancy of the Spring season. For this is the real beginning of Spring.

Everything in nature is being revived, growth really takes off  and the Sun is gaining height and strength. A great festival of awakening.

Happy days to all. May you and yours revel in the joy and beauty of it all.

St. Patrick’s Day.

In Ireland, sustainable living on March 17, 2012 at 12:02 am

The evening sky last night was just beautiful…like flames in the clouds. Sky like this usually means a good day follows. Even though this sky isn’t quite red I’m reminded of the old saying,  “red sky at night shepherd’s delight, red sky in morning sailor’s warning.” Many people will be hoping for good weather today as it is of course St. Patrick’s Day. Every town will have parades and festivities. Dublin of course has the largest parade with bands coming from all over the world.

We shall keep to our own tradition and stay at home, watch some of the Dublin parade on the TV and then plant our early Potatoes. We have been to many St. Patrick’s Day parades so we don’t feel we are missing out. Actually this has been our tradition for about 10 years now.  It’s good to make new traditions! What do you think?

As children we were always happy to see St. Patrick’s Day coming round. As it usually fell during Lent, it meant we could have a break from whatever we had “given up” for that day. Many of the men would’nt take any alcohol during Lent but most would take a break on this day. 

The day before the national feast day we would be sent out to the fields to look for shamrock,  “not clover, shamrock” my Father would say. Clover and shamrock are alike but clover has a much bigger leaf with white specks on the green. Shamrock has small little green leaves. Of course nowadays everyone buys shamrock in the supermarket but that is a relatively new phenomenon.

Patrick is still a common name in Ireland and of course round the world now. Padraig, Pauric, Paid, Paidi and Paidin are all common derivations of the name. The female form of Patrick is Patricia, this is said to have begun in Scotland in the eighteenth century.

So while we are happily planting our spuds here in Arigna may we wish you all, wherever you may be, a very happy St. Patrick’s Day.

A Poetree Walk. (part 2)

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on March 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Inside the little housey there is room to sit on an old log. A great storytelling spot…for a few small people.

These old broken down walls would once have been well maintained to contain animals. 

A pathway now marked by the feet of walkers and sightseers would once have been someones daily path…

to the little shed just beyond. It’s very low…perhaps a shed for chickens!

If only these stones could speak…what stories they would tell…of fairies and giants…and who knows what else!

The cutaway forest on the hill behind this enormous rock looks so stark and bleak. A good place to rest weary bones though!

A spring well…the locals would have drawn water by bucket from here in years gone by. Nature has reclaimed it once again…

Rock art…

 and a 19th century lime kiln give signs of previous dwellers here…

and the felled trees cry their bitter orange tears.

A Poetree Walk. (part 1).

In Ireland, Off the beaten track. on March 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm

No, I have’nt made a mistake, I did mean poetree! So, what is a Poetree Walk? A Poetree Walk is a shared walk in a woodland that combines tree appreciation with the reading of poetry, self-penned or otherwise.  The idea was concieved by Edward Durand, a poet from Sligo and John Willmott, a maker and keeper of Laybrinth Gardens. Check John’s work on . The walks will take place on Sundays from March until the end of October in woodlands throughout Ireland. Check it out on . So, yesterday saw us in the Cavan Burren, 200 acres of woodland, megalithic tombs and Bronze and Iron Age archaeological remains. A special and beautiful place.

Sitting on a mossy carpet above the Fairy portal Susie recites her touching poem about a fabulous tree she knew which has since been destroyed by humans.

An offering is made to the wee folk at the Fairy Cairn…

and another beautiful poem is shared with all.

Bee Smith captivated all with her poems and knowledge. Bee is an amazing woman… originally from America… she has a vast knowledge on Fairy folklore and Celtic spirituality. If you are visiting Ireland do check out her website . Bee can take you to the special places,  away from the well beaten tourist treks.

As we walked on we came to an area where the forest has been cut down. Could they not have left this one tree by this huge glacial rock? It seems not!

The last inhabitants left here 50 years ago…an end to thousands of years of habitation in this area.

This magnificient stone makes up one side of a little shelter. There is enough room for a few people to sit inside.

Join me for part 2 tomorrow.

Click on photos to enlarge.